Art is the Expression of the Community Around Us

Art is the Expression of the Community Around Us

“Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” – Andy Warhol

This quote from one of my favorite artists encapsulates why I love art. Warhol was a pioneer in Pop art, experimenting with the style in ways never seen before. He didn’t worry about whether his work was too out there, which made it, in my opinion, that much more amazing.

I think some of art’s beauty comes from its outlandishness. As a college student, I relished going to on-campus museums, where the edginess of artists and curators is unparalleled.

My appreciation for arts started as a child. I grew up on PBS, and my parents would take me to see opera and ballet. I came to appreciate the art around me as an expression of the community that shaped me.

Art is an integral part of our culture, which is why I host the SELA Arts Festival and my high school art competition. Through art, we can express and celebrate the vibrant culture of Southeast LA.

Turnaournd Arts Teaches The Impact Of Creativity

Turnaournd Arts Teaches The Impact Of Creativity

Some believe that art is a luxury. It’s true that many communities don’t have the same access to museums and arts education as others. However, Turnaround Arts is working to change that by bringing arts education to some of the lowest performing schools in the country.

Turnaround Arts is a national program founded by former First Lady, Michelle Obama. The California branch, established by renowned architect, Frank Gehry, and arts education advocate, Malissa Shriver, serves 27 schools across the state. In our district, that includes Ellen Ochoa Learning Center in Cudahy, Janie P. Abbott Elementary in Lynwood, Tweedy Elementary in South Gate, and Frank J. Zamboni Middle School in Paramount.

Turnaround Arts provides courses in subjects such as dance, theater, and music. The program also brings successful artists, including Smokey Robinson, Las Cafeteras, and Kerry Washington to teach master classes.

Many of the lessons bleed into other subjects. For instance, Gehry challenged Cudahy students to construct their own mini cities out of paper and cardboard. It turned into a civics lesson as Gehry asked who would run the cities and what services it would need. Some students thoughtfully built tiny homeless shelters and hospitals. The impact on students as almost immediate. “They make something and it’s intuitive,” said Gehry, “You can hear the bells go off.”

The program also trains teachers who instruct other subjects to integrate art into their curriculum. Many Turnaround Arts schools have seen an increase in English and math proficiency and a decrease in suspension rates. Therefore, bringing the arts to kids is about more than arts for art’s sake. “Children who wouldn’t have necessarily talked to each other are friends because of the arts,” said Shriver.

Art can bond a community, boost self-esteem, and increase socio-emotional wellness. It should not be a luxury because we can all benefit from it.

‘Tetris’ Murals Bring Color to Southeast LA Life

‘Tetris’ Murals Bring Color to Southeast LA Life

Growing up in Southeast LA, Hector “Tetris” Arias saw the beauty in street tags. He didn’t know what the letters meant, but they spoke to him, awakening his creativity and intrigue for street art.

Today, Tetris’ murals can be seen throughout our community from the Southgate Library to Bell Futsal Park to the Maywood Barber Lounge. His unique name originated from his days as a break-dancer because of his talent for pop locking.

The graffiti artist and graphic designer often brings his love of hip-hop to his art. Tetris also draws inspiration from LA culture. “It’s one of my biggest inspirations…from the Lowriders to the graffiti to the ingenious roots,” he said.

When describing his creative process, the Bell resident says he’s developed a formula with a vision for the finished product. The trick is knowing when it’s complete. “I could be there for years and years just painting the same murals. As an artist you have to know when to stop,” he explained.

Tetris’ murals range from tributes to indigenous gods to Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. He describes art as a universal language that transcends differences in cultures. “For example in Japan, they have a whole community that practices in L.A culture: the art, music, Lowriders,” he said.

When asked about art in Southeast LA, Tetris expressed concerns over limited arts education in schools. He emphasized that art education also benefits those who aren’t self-described ‘artists.’ Tetris quotes Pablo Picasso, saying, “Every child is an artist.”

Able ARTS Work Opens Doors

Able ARTS Work Opens Doors

Maria Galavis Arroyo carefully painted the word, “Hello,” shocking everyone in the room. Her family didn’t think she could read or write. Her developmental disability prevented her from talking, but she learned to communicate at Able ARTS Work, an arts therapy program in Long Beach.

Through evidenced-based art therapy, Able ARTS Work helps people with disabilities reach their fullest potential.  “If we hadn’t found Able ARTS Work, we never would have known that Maria had an artist in her,” said Maria’s mother. Today, Maria is a professional artist, earning her own income by selling her paintings.

Able ARTS Work serves individuals with disabilities throughout Long Beach, offering art courses in studio settings, including painting, ceramics, and photography. The organization also administers children’s arts clinics, early interventions programs for young children, and mobile arts activities for homebound clients.

With its board certified therapists, Able ARTS Work uses innovative methods to help students become artists. For instance, Maria uses a device that attaches a paintbrush to her head when painting. The sense of autonomy that people achieve at Able ARTS Work often changes their lives. “We see dramatic changes in clients. They can earn their own income and find a community,” said Erin Madigan, Director of Development.

Able ARTS Work also strives to integrate people with disabilities into the community with outings and events. Our goal is to “connect [others] to a community that has been put to the side for a long time,” said Madigan.

The artists at Able ARTS Work demonstrate that people are much more than their disabilities. They have talents and determination that can transcend any limitation the world puts on them.

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